New Delhi: The BJP has finally won a state assembly, Assam, after losing Delhi and Bihar, but its problems in the Rajya Sabha will continue. The National Democratic Alliance has 66 MPs in the upper house. The lack of a majority – the Rajya Sabha has 250 members, including 12 nominees – means the Modi government has been unable to push through the Goods and Services Tax. It has also used slightly unconventional methods to get certain controversial laws enacted – such as classifying the recent Aadhaar legislation as a money bill, thus bypassing the upper house.
Since MPs to the Rajya Sabha – the Council of States – are elected by state legislatures, how will the recent state elections in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry affect its composition? The short answer is: not by enough to give the Modi government any comfort.
The reason for this is that elections to the Rajya Sabha take place in a staggered fashion. Rajya Sabha MPs have a six year term and only one-third of a state’s seats in the upper house fall vacant at any time.
The Wire breaks down the position in the five states.
Assam has seven seats in the Rajya Sabha. Six are with the Congress (among them is former prime minister Manmohan Singh), and one is held by the Bodoland Peoples Front. However, the earliest that any of these seats falls vacant is June 2019, when the BJP-dominated Assam legislative assembly will get to send its nominees. That would be after the next Lok Sabha elections. Incidentally, two seats were filled in April 2016 – when Rupun Borah and Ranee Narah, both from the Congress, were elected. Their term will end in 2022.
Of the 18 Rajya Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu, 11 are held by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, four by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, while the Congress, the CPI and CPI(M) have one each. In June this year, six of these seats fall vacant – three of which are with the AIADMK (A.W. Rabi Bernard, A. Navaneethakrishnan, Paul Manoj Pandian), two with the DMK (K.P. Ramalingam, S. Thangavelu) and one with Congress (S. Natchiappan). The next round of vacancies will arise only in 2019, after the next general election. The new assembly is expected to choose the six seats along more or less the same party lines. In any event, none of this will alter the NDA’s position in the upper house.
Kerala has nine Rajya Sabha MPs – three from the CPI(M), three from the Congress, and one each from Kerala Congress, Janata Dal (United) and Indian Union Muslim League. The earliest that any of these MP’s term expires is 2018.
West Bengal has 16 MPs in the upper house: 12 from the Trinamool Congress, three from the CPI(M) and one from the Congress. Six of these seats fall vacant in 2017 – four from Trinamool, one from Congress and one from the CPI (M) (Sitaram Yechury). While the Trinamool may be able to increase its score to five, with the sixth going to the Congress, none of this alters the political equation in the RS for the Modi government.
Puducherry has only one MP in the Rajya Sabha. He is from the AIADMK and his term ends in 2021.